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New brewery to be a “comeback” for McConnelsville

Photo by Janelle Patterson The Old Bridge Brewing Company is currently under renovations in the former Gutbertlet Chevrolet building on West Main Street in McConnelsville.

McCONNELSVILLE–From building to brewing, the Ponchak family is on track for an early 2020 opening for its newest business venture.

“McConnelsville is making a comeback,” said Dean Ponchak, as he walked through a brick building that sits north of the village square on West Main Street directly across the street from not only the town’s grocery store, but its iconic steel bridge.

Dean and his wife Jennifer bought the building in January 2018, and the pair work together with their sons Blake, 30, and Dirk, 26, in Jennifer’s construction business, Follow the River.

Now the family is opening its second joint-venture with Dean at the helm of Old Bridge Brewing Company.

“Leading into the taproom, I want it to reflect that bridge, get a mural up there that makes it look like you’re walking up to the bridge as you walk to the tanks,” he described as electricians worked on adding lighting Wednesday.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Dean Ponchak walks through electrical wiring plans to convert a lifeboat into lighting in the banquet room of the Old Bridge Brewing Company in McConnelsville Wednesday.

The property is a former vehicle showroom last known as the Gutbertlet Chevrolet before its closure approximately a decade ago–it served as several vehicle showrooms prior to Gutbertlet and even survived an explosion in 1914 when it operated as a garage.

“It’s been a long process and a lot of work getting a 100-year building converted from a garage to a restaurant,” said Blake on Friday, noting working as a family on construction is nothing new–and hoping the business appeals both to local historians and visitors to the town.

In the last year, the county has seen several restaurants shutter their doors, including breakfast/lunch options like Kenny’s and The River Queen.

“We are all hopeful they get it open soon and are successful,” said Adam Shriver, who not only runs Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville but also serves as a Morgan County commissioner.

Recent closures don’t scare the Ponchaks since they own not only the brewery building but also the location of a new Mexican restaurant opening this month across the parking lot and plan a partnership with Maxwell’s Pizza.

“Both Maxwell’s and El Palenque will deliver right to your table once we’re open,” said Dean. “And we’ve already held some small weddings in the banquet space and plan to use this as both a special event area and a place for overflow if we get really busy.”

Dean and Jennifer Ponchak learned to brew (at a larger scale than the home brewing Dean has practiced for the last few years since retirement from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) through an immersion learning course in Colorado.

“We went to beer school and part of that immersion is working in a brewery–learning how that runs and we get to use the recipes we practiced there,” Dean explained. “I’ve always liked the red ales and a stout, but out there in Brighton we even learned to make this raspberry hibiscus beer and fruity isn’t usually what I gravitate to but it was pretty good.”

Blake said his favorite brew thus far is a session IPA his dad makes, one of the four staples the family plans to have on tap once it opens.

“I hope people walk in, look around and see how this 100-year-old building has grown from what it was beforehand, and hopefully now is a place for people to want to go on a weekend or when they get off work,” he said. “The biggest thing is you have to have good beer, as long as we have good beer anybody can enjoy it.”

Dean said he hopes to capture brewery tourists en route from Zanesville, Athens and Marietta as well.

“We are within about 30 miles of all of these and the interstate–I want a place where you can come, relax and enjoy a drink with me in my version of retirement,” he chuckled.

The brewery is anticipated to open by spring, with plumbing and electricity currently going into the approximately 160-person capacity space.

To stay updated on progress, follow the business on Facebook.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

About the brewery:

• Old Bridge Brewing Company is expected to open in the spring.

• The brewery is under renovations, converting a former garage rebuilt in 1919 after the Walker Brothers garage explosion in 1914.

• The brewery is co-owned by the four members of the Ponchak family, of McConnelsville:

• Dean, patriarch.

• Jennifer, matriarch.

• Blake, 30.

• Dirk, 26.

• The brewery plans to serve four regular and two seasonal beers once open.

Source: Dean Ponchak.

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